Tate Etc magazine issue 05 cover

Dear Henry Tate,

In the late 1980s new debates about the body emerged, typified in such influential book series as Fragments for a History of the Human Body (1989). Subsequently, this affected both how artists worked, and how their work was perceived. While some had found Louise Bourgeois’s feverish personal Surrealism off-putting, her art soon underwent a dramatic revival. Similarly, around the same time, Cindy Sherman left behind her cool black-and-white photography to create pictures that were much more about the psychological aspects of the body.

This photograph – of visitors to Vienna’s Leopold Museum exhibition The Naked Truth: Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and other scandals – shows how far public attitudes to the body (and nudity in particular) have changed since such works were deemed offensive. It is also a reminder of Kenneth Clark’s lucid distinctions between the naked and the nude, the erotic and the aesthetic, as outlined in his book The Nude (1956). And taking Clark as his starting point, David Rimanelli shows how, in the work of Félix Vallotton, Francis Picabia and John Currin, such polarised definitions have since become blurred.

As the body comes under ever increasing popular media scrutiny, what does it mean to the artist now? Nicholas Blincoe suspects that some of today’s more conceptually minded practitioners ‘do not even notice that the body has slipped out of art’. He asks: ‘What happened to it all… the artists who leaped from windows, disappeared at sea, scarred their bodies, drew blood, rolled naked?’

Much has changed since your day, has it not, Henry?

With best regards

Bice Curiger and Simon Grant



The history of the body
David Rimanelli

‘To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word nude, on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone.’ So wrote Kenneth Clark in A Study in Ideal Form. David Rimanelli argues that some artists have blurred this distinction. From Félix Vallotton to John Currin.

Anthony Caro retrospective
Richard MacCormac

Richard MacCormac reflects on the relationship between sculpture and architecture in the light of a visit to Anthony Caro's retrospective at Tate Britain.

Roman Ondák
Max Andrews

Last year Tate bought Roman Ondák’s Good Feelings in Good Times, which consists of a queue that can be staged at any time, and has already been “loaned” to an exhibition in Turkey.

Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec
Jad Adams

The Green Goddess haunted a nation and fuelled its art, including that of Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec II
Barry Humphries

The British-born fin-de-siècle bohemian Charles Conder arrived in Paris in 1890, where he soon discovered a fondness for Absinthe. The Green Goddess Absinthe haunted a nation and fuelled its art, including that of Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Martin Kippenberger
Daniel Baumann

Associated with the culture of refined abandon is the idea that art and alcohol are related, ending in tragically romantic self-destruction. Martin Kippenberger explored the clichés and norms of the art world, and the art of his generation is better understood in the light of the emergence of rock and punk, transforming this taboo-breaking energy into art. Daniel Baumann digs deeper.

Roger Fenton
Simon Grant1

In 1855 Roger Fenton took a photograph that became an iconic image of the Crimean War. The story of its making has itself become part of the medium’s history and subsequent generations of artists have been influenced by the first British war photographer.

Morgan Fisher
Mark Webber

Morgan Fisher mixes cinematic history, autobiography and art historical references in his exploration of filmmaking. Mark Webber investigates how the work of the underrated American artist and film-maker sits between the avant-garde, the commercial movie industry and contemporary art, and how his films have sat under the radar for twenty years.

Henri Rousseau
Dexter Dalwood and Nancy Ireson

Dexter Dalwood and Nancy Ireson explore the enduring influence and legacy of the self-taught French artist Henri Rousseau

Nicholas Blincoe

The body matters, more than at any other time in history. As Abi Titmuss appears in a Sapphic embrace on the cover of FHM magazine, Morgan Spurlock expands his waistline and strains his heart in Supersize Me. Nip/Tuck wins an Emmy and a bodybuilder-turned-actor is the most popular politician in America. Where should a history of the body in art begin? asks Nicholas Blincoe.

Richard Hamblyn

Richard Hamblyn looks at the use of sky to load meaning in painting since the Renaissance, including the work of John Constable, Alexander Cozens, Roger Fenton, Andreas Gursky and Paul Nash

Sarah Lucas
A.C. Grayling

Since her ironic Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab (1992), which delighted and enraged gallery goers in equal measure, Sarah Lucas has explored sexual attitudes with a direct visual vocabulary. But as a touring retrospective at the Kunsthalle Zurich reveals, there is more to her work than it seems.

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Cedric Price said in 2003, ‘A twenty-first century museum will utilise calculated uncertainty and conscious incompleteness to produce a catalyst for invigorating change whilst always producing the harvest of the quiet eye.’ He and Hans Ulrich Obrist take a walk through an empty Tate Modern, and discuss the ideal museum, including Rem Koolhaas’s plan for the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

John Latham
Paul Moorhouse

At an 80th birthday celebration of the work of British artist John Latham, Paul Moorhouse looks into his central books motif.

Tacita Dean
Brian Dillon

Tacita Dean explores the elastic nature of time and space, and is intrigued by futuristic-looking abandoned buildings that have been ‘left to leach their enigmatic energies into the surrounding territory.’ To coincide with her exhibition at Tate St. Ives, Brian Dillon examines her poetic view of history.

Sista Pratesi, Tomma Abts, Gerald Davies and Marcel Dzama

Sista Pratesi, Tomma Abts, Gerald Davies and Marcel Dzama reflect on a work in the Tate collection

Horst Bredekamp and Barbara Maria Stafford

What is hyperrealism? Work which feels more real than reality? Or a way of ‘mastering God’s creations’ ? Horst Bredekamp and Barbara Maria Stafford look at the meticulous portrait paintings of Albrecht Dürer, Joris Hoefnagel, Richard Phillips, Chuck Close and others.


Henri rousseau II
Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie writes a poem exclusively for Tate Etc. inspired by Rousseau's painting The Merry Jesters 1906